U.S. Wheat Colleagues Remember Jim Mckenna

Posted April 9, 2015

Jim Mckenna.

On April 4, USW and our customers in Sub-Saharan Africa lost a dear friend and colleague with the death of Jim Mckenna, who retired last year after 21 years of service as a milling and baking consultant. Regional Vice President Ed Wiese reports that phone calls and emails from members of the region’s milling and baking industries paying tribute to Jim have been pouring into the USW/Cape Town Office. 

How Jim’s colleagues remember him echoes his commitment and dedication, as well as his sincere interest in other people that made him so successful. May his example be an inspiration for all of us as we carry on the reputation of quality, value and reliability for U.S. wheat and the farmers who grow it. 

The late USW baking consultant Bennie Beretta introduced Jim to Ed Wiese and Assistant Regional Director Gerald Theus in 1993. 

“Jim and Bennie went on to open doors to everyone who is anyone in the South African industry,” Ed remembers. “Their experience and knowledge of Africa helped pave the way for USW's market development efforts, and the success of U.S. wheat exports, throughout the region – especially in Nigeria.”   

“His astute and in-depth knowledge of all U.S. and competing wheat classes always amazed me,” Theus says. “Jim’s recommendations for a specific U.S. class targeting a specific market was always spot-on and helped open up new and exciting markets.” 

“Jim's name will be written boldly when the history of USW’s legacy with the Nigerian wheat milling industry is written,” says USW Marketing Consultant Muyiwa Talabi. “He helped establish professional relationships with business giants and CEOs in the milling industry. Then he encouraged USW to train Nigerians for jobs in milling and baking that has endeared USW to the hearts of so many Nigerian people and organizations. Yet in his own right, he was a technical genius.”

Peter Lloyd, Regional Technical Manager, USW/Casablanca, remembers Jim as a colleague who “was admired, respected and loved by many from the Cape to Cairo. He had an ability to get the best from people, especially those on the shop floor, by leading from the front with a ready smile and gentle guidance. He will inspire me always.”   

Jim Mckenna’s influence extended around the world, particularly to many people in the hard red winter wheat production region of the central and southern U.S. plains. 

“His committed and diligent work did so much for Kansas wheat farmers,” says Justin Gilpin, CEO of Kansas Wheat. “I learned a lot from Jim about the wheat industry and most importantly, how to value relationships and the importance of treating people the right way. He was one of a kind and it is hard to express what he meant to me.” 

“Jim touched so many lives in such a positive way and always had a relaxed way of conveying his message,” Wiese notes. “Work was always important to him, but Jim had life's priorities straight. His number one priority was his family and our thoughts and prayers are with them now. And so for Jim, from South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Cameroon, Angola, Mozambique and many other countries, African drums are beating and wishing him farewell.”